Too often managers get a bad rap. Here, Helen Floor analyses the hallmarks of great management

Managers have an important role to play in every organisation – they hold the key to the future readiness of a workforce. It’s not enough for them to simply tell people what to do and act as a corrective when they don’t.

How do we know if we’re being managed well? One fairly reliable barometer is how happy we are in our job. But this is a subjective judgement, and it’s not always easy to recognise when our boss is trying to help us.

The best managers have our best interests at heart – they want to help us become the best version of ourselves that we can be. How do they do this?

1. They earn trust, and give it

There’s no greater currency between members of a team than trust. Some people have initial qualms about sharing relevant personal information with their manager. But if you quickly feel safe when sharing, your manager is doing something right. Better still is when you feel trusted. One of the greatest gifts a manager can give you is their trust, and few things are more motivating.

2. They coach, and teach by example

Good managers can coach us to make our own decisions while challenging our thinking to help us recognise what it feels like to make reasoned choices. But the best managers can also inspire us by how they conduct themselves. We often learn best by watching good people do things well. If your manager does certain things conspicuously well in a way that inspires you to take the same approach, recognise the value in the lesson.  

3. They don’t make it personal

There’s an art to raising an issue with an employee’s performance without making it personal or demotivating. Managers should be able to help their staff recognise what they need to do to improve, and empower them to develop accordingly.

4. They help us to shape our future

Good managers can help us to set our eye on an objective or ambition and work out how we will achieve it. They help us to recognise our ambitions and map our futures so we feel responsible for our destiny.

5. They don’t feel threatened

A strong manager understands that the team’s success is their success. By inspiring their team to excel, they increase the chance of everyone in it progressing. Good managers are not threatened by their employees’ desire to progress.  

6. They set clear goals and expectations

The best managers communicate with their team regularly during a project or task to ensure everybody is on track. They’re open and accessible, and we’re encouraged to give them bad news before it becomes a real problem. We feel we know where we stand with a good manager, because we understand what we need to do, when we need to do it and what success looks like.

7. They praise

Good managers praise when it is warranted. Praise (and thanks) is more effective when it is qualified; ie when a manager explains why a piece of work is good, or why your actions helped them, because this kind of praise is a subtle form of coaching.

8. They have identified how you’re motivated

‘Manage the individual’ is one of the most well-worn mantras in business – and with good reason. To get the best out of their team, your manager needs to understand what motivates and inspires each member of it. And we are all motivated and wired very differently.

The role of a manager today is to develop a legacy of robust professionals who can make decisions. Managers must perform a balancing act: to inspire the enthusiasm of new hires while mitigating risk, and to allow people the chance to fail while ensuring the experience strengthens them and doesn’t damage the organisation. This is the challenge of management in the world we face today.

Helen Floor is managing director of 1-1 Recruitment